September 10, 2004 Features & Images » Feature Story

Insider’s Guide to Whistler 

Museum collaborators reveal favourite local haunts

The question, always, for a traveller, is how to get the best sense of a place. Immersing yourself as long as possible is not always practical. Checking in with the concierge or the Visitor Information Centre isn't going to reveal the real dope. Reading the guidebook that everyone else is reading isn’t going to lead you to the undiscovered gems.

You need an insider, a brilliant guide, you need to cut straight to the heart of a place. That way, you can layer their vision across what your eyes take in – create a composite of realities that takes you a little deeper, beneath the surface. It’s subjective, sure. But it’s the Insider’s Guide.

Whistlerites have no shortage of visitors popping by, to take advantage of prime-located spare bedrooms. But what of Whistler do they make sure their guests see?

This was what I wanted to know recently when a friend from my pre-Whistler life came to visit. I wanted to play the host. I wanted her to have an amazing time, for this trip to be right up there amongst her other adventures, yachting in the Baltic Sea, trekking across Iceland, riding donkeys into Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, developing a taste for mutton in the yurts of Mongolia. Most of all I wanted to reveal enough of this place’s charm that she would be seduced, that she would understand why I would forsake my home for this place, why I would consider never going back.

I needed some real locals. Whoever they might be.

At the Whistler Museum, they have been grappling with this very question: "What makes a local?" Curator Kerry Clark explains: "As a holiday destination, Whistler tends to be transient. People come and go on a regular basis and the high cost of living discourages many from staying long-term. I think that the word ‘local’ is a contested term in Whistler."

Museum staff came up with a unique approach to exploring the issue – a medium well-suited to investigating and showcasing different perspectives. Photography. Twelve Whistlerites were briefed with disposable cameras and a single mission: Show Us Your World.

Clark explains: "We chose as broad and representative a cross-section of people as possible, but we didn’t want to give them too much direction. We wanted them to be creative. We wanted them to take us on a tour of Whistler, within the realm of their day to day existence."

I asked several of the exhibit participants to take part in a second mission: Give Me The Scoop. After establishing their local credentials, I wanted to know what their favourite places were, both to visit themselves and to reveal to others. By the time I tracked the operatives down, my friend had legged on to the next chapter of her adventure, taking with her memories of my take of Sea to Sky iconic experiences: a through-hike from Madeley to Rainbow Lakes, wild blueberry-picking and bear-dodging along the alpine and sub-alpine trails, brunch at the Wildwood, a dip in Alta Lake from Rainbow Beach, people-watching along the Valley Trail, an intro to rock-climbing at Rogues Gallery. We went further afield – hiked the Squamish Chief and celebrated with micro-brewed beers; took a float trip along the lower reaches of the Ashlu; made a mandatory stop at Timmy Ho’s to study the strange phenomenon of Timbits; swam at Brohm Lake. And we’d still barely skimmed the surface.

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